Peggy Noonan: World Yearns for Return of Strong American Leadership

Friday, 27 Sep 2013 11:18 AM

By Melanie Batley

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This week's United Nations General Assembly underscored how little influence President Barack Obama has on the world stage, and the longing among allies for a resurgence of strong American leadership, Peggy Noonan says.

In her column for The Wall Street Journal, Noonan says that conversations behind the scenes at the annual U.N. session indicated concern that American influence has waned, and nostalgia for the "old America" that set an example of leadership and success admired throughout the world.

"The world misses the old America, the one before the crash — the crashes — of the past dozen years," the author and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan writes.

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"Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented," she says.

"As for those who are not America's friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?"

According to Noonan, one area that left few in doubt, is Obama's lack of clout among his counterparts.

"Barack Obama's reputation among this fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant," Noonan writes.

Noonan attributes part of the phenomenon to Obama's irresolute handling of the Syrian crisis. She also suggests there are doubts about his judgment and a general sense that he lacks the weight to command respect.

Noonan quotes a former senior U.S. diplomat as saying, "World leaders are very negative about Obama," and are "disappointed, feeling he's not really in charge . . . The Western Europeans don't pay that much attention to him anymore."

Noonan concludes by highlighting the perceived slight from Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, in which he avoided a brief meeting or handshake, describing it as "embarrassing," and evidence of Obama's waning relevance.

She concludes by saying, "I wondered, as [Rouhani] spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn't say, and nobody thought to ask him."

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